Friday, September 9, 2016

Airbnb Adopts Rules to Fight Discrimination by Its Hosts - The New York Times

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Airbnb Adopts Rules to Fight Discrimination by Its Hosts - The New York Times

AirBnB has released a 32 page report on measures it proposes to end racial discrimination by its member renters.  The Times reports:

by Katie Benner

SAN FRANCISCO — For much of this year, Airbnb has been under fire over the ease with which its hosts can reject potential renters based on race, age, gender or other factors.
The barrage of criticism began with a Harvard University study, snowballed with firsthand accounts of discrimination from Airbnb guests and has prompted a lawsuit.
Airbnb, the short-term rental website, has moved quickly to tamp down the controversy. It embarked on a top-to-bottom review of how discrimination might creep into the site. It hired prominent advisers, including former United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., to help formulate anti-bias policies. And Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, has repeatedly said that the company needed to do better in dealing with the issue.
On Thursday, Airbnb took its most forceful actions yet to combat discrimination. It told its rental hosts that they needed to agree to a “community commitment” starting on Nov. 1 and that they must hew to a new nondiscrimination policy. The company also said that it would try to reduce the prominence of user photographs, which indicate race and gender, and that it would accelerate the use of instant bookings, which lets renters book places immediately without host approval.
The moves were outlined in a 32-page report that serves as a blueprint for how Airbnb plans to fight discrimination on the site. Among the other changes is a new full-time anti-discrimination team of engineers, data scientists and researchers, whose job includes discerning patterns of host behavior.
“Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them,” Mr. Chesky wrote in a message to Airbnb users and hosts that accompanied the report. “Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry.”

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